The 2nd Act Players, a starting-out theatrical troupe begun by the gusto of John Frank and a few friends, is hosting an improv show to fund their fall production of “Boys in the Basement.”
In John’s words, the company has been “looking for a way to raise money rather than begging friends and family” and landed on the ever-popular improv form, both short and long. The first event of the series was in Winnetka in August.
The 2nd Act Players’ improv wing will perform alongside “Snow” and “Wizards & Oz,” two local groups with particular styles of improv. John Frank spoke with Evanston Now about the styles, the show, and what to expect from the 2nd Act Players in the future.
Your website mentions that you all formed the 2nd Act Players troupe based on experiences at Actor’s Training Center, right?
We did our first play in 2013, but we were just a bunch of people who met in acting class. We started using the name, but now that we’re incorporated it’s more of a “thing”. The Piven improv showcase was the first attempt for our improv wing.
I retired from my career in April 2015 and want to have fun – so I’m doing freelance writing and theatre. I can’t wait much longer, I’m 62! I want to keep active as long as possible. I love the advantages of forgetting everything other than the improv scene.
Sell the show to me! Why should people come see it?
It’s an hour of improv with three groups: our 2nd Act improv wing will do dramatic scenes. More often than not they’re serious. “Wizards and Oz’s” leader is named Oz; they’re traditional improv, like last time they did a whole scene on eggplants, just one word of suggestion from the audience. “Snow” is very experienced and will come out and just create worlds of their own. They’re incredible.
Why did you choose “Boys in the Basement” for your first production of the year?
It’s my third play, based on my own life, when I was divorced. Once you’re a divorced man, if you stay near your children in the suburbs, you’re sort of on the outside looking in. It’s not a story you see onstage a lot, about how men deal with the loss of family. There’s a character who’s still in shock and it tracks his story through shock and depression, and more. Can true love really survive, or will we all end up in divorce court?
It’s a very personal story, I’m hoping it will resonate with a lot of people.
As a playwright, how do you hope to help other writers through this troupe?
We’re looking at a development process for new scripts. In January, we’re producing “Remembrance,” a new play, at Piven. The staging of this play in Winnetka went well and we want to bring it to a new audience. It’s about a man who dies and goes to a sort of limbo called Remembrance. And you’re there until everyone on Earth forgets you; then you move to heaven or hell. It’s a very poignant play. They literally put out tissue boxes at the end of the aisles in Winnetka. It fits with our mission: it’s the ultimate second act.
What are your biggest hopes and dreams for the 2nd Act Players?
This year we incorporated as a 501c3. We want to deal with stories about turning points. We want to do a one-act play festival in 2016.
As we grow, one of the next things I want to do is find permanent rehearsal space in a church nearer to us. Eventually I want to find a home, but that’s far out. We put in a hope for the Howard space, in Evanston.
We broke even the last two years, and that’s our goal!
The evening of improv with the 2nd Act Players is at Smylie Brothers Brewing, September 23rd starting at 9 PM. Visit www.Evanston2ndActPlayers.com for more information.
“Boys in the Basement” premieres November 6th at Piven.